By Dawn Papandrea
Here's a stat to dislike: Nearly one-third of divorce filings in 2011 mentioned the word Facebook, according to a survey from Divorce-Online, a British legal service. "You can't blame Facebook for divorce, but it will exploit cracks that are already there," says Charles J. Orlando, relationship expert and author of The Problem with Women... is Men. So does using Facebook doom your marriage? Hardly. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg's status recently went from single to married. Before your marital status takes a turn toward "It's complicated," try these expert strategies to protect your relationship. Photo credit: Thinkstock
1. Go beyond just being friends with your spouse.
Befriending your spouse and sharing your relationship status on Facebook are no-brainers, but go one step further, suggests Julie Spira, author of The Rules of Netiquette: How to Mind Your Manners on the Web . "Both you and your spouse should be digitally proud of your marriage. So post your anniversary dinner photo together or a picture from a recent vacation," she says. Orlando agrees, adding that not mentioning your husband is the online equivalent of not wearing your wedding band.
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2. Consider sharing passwords.
Elizabeth Hanes of Albuquerque, NM, says she and her husband, Lee, know each other's logins to everything, but not so they can snoop on each other. "It shows that neither of us have anything to hide," she says. It's also practical. "Once, a friend posted something inappropriate to Lee's wall, but he couldn't access Facebook from work so he asked me to delete the post for him," she says.
That's not to say that exchanging passwords is a must. "Everyone needs personal space, both online and offline," says Spira. "While you might share a toothbrush, a little privacy and mystery is good for a marriage." So even if you know each other's logins, you should feel like you never have to use it.
3. Don't be friends with exes.
People rarely have pure intentions when they seek out exes, says Orlando. His simple advice: "Defriend, disassociate, disengage." That's because the protection of the Internet allows for more forward conversation, points out Karen Sherman, PhD, relationship specialist and author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It and Make It Last.
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Seeing what an old friend is up to, though, is part of the fun of Facebook, she adds. But-and here's the important part-only if your partner is okay with it. If you know your spouse would be upset to see an old flame on your friends list, ignoring or rejecting a friend request is the right move. On the flipside, if you're uncomfortable that your husband is friends with an ex, bring up the subject. "Let him explain why they're friends," recommends Spira. "Chances are, it's not a big deal to him to add her to his many friends from the past."
4. Avoid airing your dirty laundry.
Too many couples overshare their spats on Facebook, says Spira, "and your friends don't want to see the drama in your marriage." Remember, posting about how your hubby annoyed you is like putting it on a neighborhood billboard.
Even when your intentions are innocent, posting about your partner can hurt feelings, as *Barbara of St. Paul, MN, found out. Her husband dropped off their son late to a birthday party. The birthday boy's mom made a passive aggressive remark on Facebook about people not arriving on time, and Barbara apologized for her husband who slipped up on "daddy duty." "*Steve didn't like that he was made to look irresponsible when he was late because the place was hard to find," she explains. "Now I only post positive stuff about my husband," she says.
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5. Set rules together.
Your page may be your own, but you have to respect your mate, says Dr. Sherman. "Be aware of one another's sensitivities," she advises. For instance, maybe you're not thrilled that your husband is posting vacation photos of you in your bikini. Or he doesn't like when you tag him in posts that share a strong political view. Discuss posting no-nos to avoid future conflicts.
6. Support each other online, but don't let it replace how you communicate.
If you and your spouse gush about each other online, but then barely have a conversation when you're in the same room, make an effort to connect IRL (in real life, that is!). "People show their love in different ways. Some men talk, some men write. But never let anything substitute a real connection in your relationship," says Orlando.
On a related note, it's easy to get swept up in your logged-on life that you prioritize it over your marriage, says Orlando. "It's a common relationship infraction, but you have to learn balance so you don't end up losing connection with the people you care about most," he says. He suggests designating tech-free times in your home, whether it's during dinner, after 8 p.m. or every Sunday.
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7. Don't post anything that can be misinterpreted.
"You can't hear the sound of someone's voice when reading a Facebook post," reminds Spira. For this reason, err on the side of caution with your posts, especially when communicating with members of the opposite sex. A harmless remark can sound anything but. For instance, refrain from posting that a male coworker was "great last night." You'd know you're talking about his client dinner presentation, but that's not how everyone else will take it.
Even when you tread carefully, a spouse's reaction to a Facebook exchange might surprise you. *Rachel from Central PA shared an innocent exchange she'd had with a colleague. "My husband was infuriated-and he's not even the jealous type! He decided that the guy was pursuing me," she says. Rachel realized from that incident that no one but the sender truly understands messages' context and that words easily can be misconstrued.
8. Ask and answer questions about Facebook friends.
If you notice your husband in the arms of another woman in a photo, it's natural to draw a conclusion, admits Spira. But giving the benefit of the doubt is important in a trusting relationship. "It could be a buddy's sister who jumped in the photo, not the woman who wants to jump into bed with your husband," she says. Always talk to your spouse in person about anything online that bugs you.
Try something like: "I noticed a post from Jennifer on your wall, but I don't remember you mentioning her. Can you tell me a little about her?" Be direct, and you won't come across like you're firing off accusations.
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*Names have been changed.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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